Photo by Erica Sherman.

The New York State Department of Financial Services mobile unit is stationed in Manhattan Beach until 7:00 p.m. tonight, assisting residents and business owners with bank and insurance issues. And they’ve got company: representatives from several local banks who will hopefully help ease lending and the release of tied-up insurance funds.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz writes:

On Monday, March 4th, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., representatives of five of New York’s largest banks and mortgage servicers will be stationed in the Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center outside P.S. 195, 131 Irwin Street (between Shore and Oriental Boulevards) offer one-on-one help to homeowners.

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, CitiMortgage and Ocwen Loan Servicing will be on hand. Other institutions sending representatives include OneWest Bank and Assurant, which will represent dozens of smaller banks and mortgage servicers.

… As a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Insurance, I heard testimony at a hearing last week which shed light into policyholders’ experiences with insurance companies in the four months since Sandy struck. Thousands of residents and store owners are still struggling to rebuild their homes and reopen their businesses, and for many of them, difficulties with banks and insurance claims are the primary reason why this process is taking so long.

Insurers typically issue checks jointly to a homeowner and the homeowner’s mortgage bank or servicer following the settlement of a large insurance claim. That means the bank needs to endorse the check before the homeowner may access the funds. Dual endorsement is a standard requirement of mortgage notes and insurance contracts to protect the lender’s interest. Banks may also require proof that repairs have been made before endorsing checks.

Last month, the Department of Financial Services found that banks were holding more than $200 million in insurance funds from Storm Sandy victims; the Department urged the banks to use maximum discretion and effort to speed the release of funds and asked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to announce emergency reforms to their rules to provide banks and mortgage servicers with even more discretion to release funds.

The five participating banks and servicers will be immediately releasing an estimated $70-80 million to current borrowers as a result of these rule changes.

The Department of Financial Services is also available to anyone who has questions or concerns about general insurance-related issues.

If you can’t attend, you can still get help by calling the department at (800) 339-1759. Insurance information is also available on the department’s website.

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